Posted by: orcaweb | July 5, 2010
Spring time with the White beaked dolphins
June has been a great month for cetacean sightings from DFDS Seaways the King of Scandinavia. We have a consistent record for the month of dolphins on every mini cruise!! and minke whales twice a week!! This was sustained through my shifts on board! How fantastic to be able to inform passengers wildlife watching what time to get out on the observation decks and what to expect to see. Our sightings map also gives clear patterns now as we stay on-board each mini cruise April-October.
April saw the regular harbour porpoise pod in the wind-farms area of Imjoden. These have since been seen further off that coast in May and June. In May the Minkes started to be spotted along with the White beaked dolphin pods. It started as 1 Minke seen leaving Newcastle and 4-5 white beaked dolphins off Sunderland/ Seaham coast. Other pods of dolphins were spotted like the Rissos, Atlantic white sided, Commons and Bottlenose. A pod of Orcas were spotted 3km off the boat unfortunately the photo taken did not provide the evidence for a definite record there- but a good effort by 1 of the passengers to try and get a photo though as i am far too excited and busy shouting to do that it transpires!
Our lovely semi resident pods of white beaked dolphins have stolen our attention in June. Stout looking dolphins with a white saddle area and known for their breaching, tail slapping and bow riding behaviours, making them a pleasure to watch off the bow of the ship. The photos below were all taken by Leen Zuydgeest a passnger on board The King
The Minke whales were seen travelling in a North westerly direction as we passed them between 19.00hrs to 23.00 off Durham coastline which we travel down till midnight when light enough. The Minke being an approx 10m roqual baleen whale, and actually the smallest one seen in the UK (the Fin whales reaching 26ms seen in Celtic waters being the largest!). They have a baleen fringe that filters food from the seawater by expanding their throat pleats to take in large amounts of water. Zoo plankton and fish are sieved out and swallowed. Highly productive feeding areas need to be found to allow these huge animals to grow to such size. So where are these whales going? Perhaps to the cooler waters where the warm water meets it and pushes more concentrated food to the surface. Known minke coconcentrations are observed off Scotland at this time of year so maybe we have the answer? A shared catalogue of Minke photos for id is used to track individuals some being resident and others showing particular site fidelity where they return each year.
All is not known of cetaceans and their interesting lives as we cannot survey in the dark or if sea conditions are at all choppy. Long term data is needed to allow for the effects of weather, climatic changes and effort. Luckily ORCA volunteer survey teams are out on deck from dawn to dusk making such records. Hopefully with this information we can help predict and protect our Minke whales and all of the cetaceans in European waters.
If you would like to make to train to come and carry out a survey which I can highly recommend please look at our website where there will be information of the next training event www.orcaweb.org.uk .
Kathryn Driscoll Senior Wildlife Education Officer
ORCA Organisation Cetacea